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Today, for the second time, the Alaska House of Representatives failed to fund a new capital appropriations bill that allows Alaska to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. The funding for the bill failed Monday by a single vote. Senate Bill 2002 also included the much talked about “reverse sweep” language to recapitalize the Power Cost Equalization Endowment Fund (PCE), the Higher Education Fund, the Vaccine Assessment Fund, and other special funds seized by Governor Dunleavy using an arcane provision in state law.
Without passage of SB 2002 or another similar bill, residents in much of rural Alaska will pay significantly more for electricity this year, and thousands of college-bound students will lose scholarships they planned for and earned. The fallout from failing to pass SB 2002 will be felt across the entire state. Jobs will be lost, and our hard-fought economic recovery could be in jeopardy.
The rules allow for one more shot at passing the bill, but we need one more yes vote. The clock is ticking because we need that yes vote before the end of the month, which is the deadline for receiving the $750 million in federal transportation money.
The failure to fund SB 2002 threatens the safety of all Alaskans because the money to implement this year’s criminal justice reform legislation was included in the capital funding bill. House Bill 49 was signed into law earlier this month after passing the Alaska Legislature with only two no votes.
In today’s charged political atmosphere, that’s a huge bipartisan achievement. However, it could all be for naught if politics is allowed to stand in the way of public safety. For the crime bill to be effective, we need to fund it, and to fund it, we need to pass Senate Bill 2002. It’s just that simple. That’s why we need one more yes vote.
Preparing for the Worst at the University of Alaska
The negative impacts keep piling up from Governor Dunleavy’s decision to slash up the budget for the University of Alaska with his veto pen. Earlier today, the University Board of Regents took the drastic step of declaring a financial exigency for the University.
“Given the poor hand we’ve been dealt, financial exigency is the only tool for us. It will allow us to prepare a plan for continuing our mission. None of us want to be here today, and as I look at the faces of our students, faculty, and staff – their anxiety and their loss – I wonder, how can our university, something so great, that has been built up by so many for so long, be crippled by so few so quickly.”
– UA President Jim Johnsen
Today’s declaration of financial exigency allows University officials to expedite laying off employees and end degree programs to quickly respond to the largest budget cut in the history of the University of Alaska. Job losses at the University could approach 1,300 and upwards of 40 degree programs could be permanently lost.
Earlier this month, I voted to override Governor Dunleavy’s irresponsible veto of University funding, but due to the absence of several lawmakers from Juneau, the override vote failed. While it’s too late to try again to override the vetoes, the Alaska Legislature can pass a new appropriations bill to make up for the cut.
The new version of the House Bill 2001 restores $110 million of the $135 million cut from the University’s budget. I don’t like to see the University suffer any large cuts, but I am confident the institution can survive a $25 million cut. However, if the Governor’s $135 million cut is allowed to stand the University of Alaska’s mission will be jeopardized, as will our decade’s long investment in higher education opportunities in Alaska.
The new version of House Bill 2001 passed out of the House Finance Committee this afternoon by a vote of 7-3. I anticipate the full Alaska House of Representatives to move quickly to vote on the bill, perhaps as early as tomorrow.
I’m here for you, so please keep in touch on matters important to you and your family!
Alaska State Representative
District 23 – Anchorage